Rivera has dropped to the ground, the bullet hole in the right side of his head mirroring his father's death. His shot had gone shamefully wide and is lodged in the door frame to my right. The final man lays hunched on the floor, gripping the gushing wound on his shoulder. He will bleed out before the ambulance arrives. If we wanted to call oneā€¦ He has dropped his weapon and Tony steps over Rivera's body to clear both men's guns.

"He was right, you know," Tony says seriously. "What he said about making me see how it feels. Except that I already know, I just refused to admit it."

I am shocked by his frankness. This is unexpected. But not unwelcome. For the first time I can see his face and it is covered in bruises, some fresh some days old. His mouth also has fresh blood in the corner, no doubt from the sickening blow I heard earlier. I lift my hand to touch it, hesitating. Relieved that he is not more injured but aching to see him like this. I gently brush the blood away with the pad of my thumb and wipe it on my jeans. His eyes are locked on my own wound and I can't help but feel he wants to offer more to sooth its pain that I have just done. I shiver with the thought but there is work to be done. We need to check on Rifle Man and call for backup.

"I know too, Tony," I say honestly as I drag him out into the hallway. He casually drapes his arm across my shoulder and we walk through the dust back to the front door. Rifle Man, now awake, glares at us as we pass. "We need to secure the scene, the others will be here ten minutes after I call in," I explain as I make the call.

"They're here?" he asks, glad that Vance had no been stupid enough to send me totally without backup too.

I nod, hang up and lean against the wall, suddenly exhausted by my sleepless night and two days spent trailing the drug lord. Tony stands in front of me and lifts my chin with his finger.

I can practically see his mind whirling. But he does not ask why I have come. He knows.

"Thankyou," he says, his brow furrowed, his voice catching. "For coming, for having my 6."

"Of course," I nod again. "Abby will now say that it is Tony 1 Ziva 1. We are bound."

"Yes we are," he nods, not correcting my deliberate mistake. I think he likes this meaning better.

I do not know what to say now. So many thoughts, so much relief, all jumbled in my brain and fighting to come out. But nothing comes out. Then, unable to resist, knowing how happy it will make him, I smile and say four words I did not expect to say today, if ever.

"You jump, I jump."

Tony's face breaks into that smile that wears down my resolve like nothing else. He pulls me forward and his arms wrap tightly around my body. Softly, ever so gently, his lips brush the corner of my mouth, one simple action which we both know is anything but.

"That's my girl," he whispers in my ear. "That's my contraction using, constitution memorizing, movie quoting, American girl."

Despite everything, he has not forgotten. I know that later we have much to talk about, including his inevitable guilt at missing the biggest day of my life. I decide right then and there that I will let myself have a bigger day, one that he will need to be present for, and that despite the painful history each of us brings to the tble, we will be giving the blurry picture of my future every chance to become clear. I smile into Tony's shoulder and we stand there, in the dim, dusty hallway, waiting for the rest of our family to arrive, not pretending and not avoiding.

I am no longer worried.

And I suspect that later, once we are home, no longer will we avoid saying what we both know needs so be said. With the lives that we lead, with the daily possibility that one of both of us won't make it home that night, there is no more time to waste.

A/N Thanks for reading everyone! I hope you enjoyed my crazy look into Ziva's mind. Thankyou for all your kind reviews and alerts. I hope I replied to anyone who asked me a question but please let me know if I missed you!

LouC